Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hike 13- Wild Western Verdugos

The Verdugos are becoming a pet project of mine. I so enjoyed my first hike of them, I wanted to do more. I chose to approach the mountain range from the Southwest using the slightly documented Whiting Road Trail. Little did I know what the mountain had in store for me.

This was my first back-to-back hike in awhile. Having hiked a reasonable 5+ miles or so yesterday, I thought to myself, let's do it again but make it 8! That was a mistake because within .2 of a mile it became very clear that my legs were still feeling the effects from yesterday. So I basically started "arm hiking" using my hiking poles up the canoe trail. Even with the poles, I still needed frequent stops to chill out and let my legs recover a bit (frequent being the operative word).

Making matters more complicated was that this trail has basically 2% shade. If you are hiking this trail, either bring a lot of SPF or hike it during the June Gloom or Winter. I was stopping every place there was shade in order to rest the legs and get a little cool. I recently got a new merino wool longsleeve shirt from IceBreaker and it was an all-season one and I have to say, despite the heat, I didn't mind having longsleeves on. While this is no plug for the product, I am certainly thankful I had on something breathable and thin today.

Ahh shade on the canoe trail.

In any event, despite my personal failings, this hike does have a lot going for it, namely lots of birds, salamanders and rabbits. Wildlife has been kinda incognito during many of my hikes and the birds were out in abundance. There aren't too many people who hike this trail but those who do are very friendly and have dogs with great names like S'mores.

Also, I am experiencing my first Cali wildflower season and some of the most interesting flowers are coming out along the trail.

The Whiting trail goes for about 2.4 miles of a steady uphill hike. There are some flat spots but bring your calves when you are doing this one. It also has a LOT of switchbacks and winding pathways. So much so, I thought I was on Mt. Whitney (note never been on Whitney but I just learned it has 99 switchbacks!)

Eventually you make it to the false ridgeline just below the summits of several of the Verdugos. If you take the trail to the right, it goes West and North and heads back to the valley floor. I chose to keep trekking East (and left at the junction) along the Verdugo "motorway" (I love how the "trails" are named out here because of the fire vehicles that use them but still).

For the longest time, I had this range on my mind after having glimpsed it from the IKEA parking lot and one summit in particular. To reach that summit though was something else entirely.

After about 1.4 miles on the ridgeline, you reach the aptly named Skyline Motorway.

You can either go left or right on the Motorway. You can take the path left and go to this weirdo summit, which is what I recommend.

Its flat, its sandy, it does give you great views of the mountains and Burbank but man, it is just weird! It does have a cool bush on it though:

If you take the right fork of the path you will start heading West and below several peaks of the Verdugos. To call these peaks wild is an understatement. The fire road is overgrown with grass. There are no discernible paths up any of the peaks (even my IKEA peak). Salamanders outnumber human footprints 500 to 2.

Mountains have a funny way of humbling you. As I was hiking around the Skyline, I tried to go up on washout trail to a summit with a tree on top that I was using as a landmark. My knee was really acting up and while I thought I could get up to the summit, I didn't know if I could actually get down. The inclines are steep, the dirt is loose and there is nothing to grab onto. I came down after only going up about 100 feet. You must know your limitations on the trail and I realized that summit-ting and then coming down would be too much for me.

There is one hint I can give you and one that I might explore upon my return to the Verdugos. Right at the sign, if you proceed down the Skyline path about 50 feet there is a faint path that is easily accessed on the right hand side of the trail. If you take that trail, your vertical starts in another 50 feet and I can't help you after that but that is where I suggest you attack the summit from. The rest of the peaks are about as tough as they come and if you find a trail worth exploring, good luck.

Here is a pic for reference:

On the way down, my knee was really acting up. I credit this to being overly reliant on my hiking sticks due to just not having "it" on this hike. Interestingly, I managed to get down the trail with less pain when I stopped using my hiking sticks. I think the legs said "we are doing very well on our own thank you". My hiking partner on my previous ascent of the Verdugos really gritted it out and her performance on the mountain made me tough out the remaining 2 miles. Also remember, if you hike alone, only you can really get yourself off the mountain. Sure you can use helicopters to come get your sorry self but if you can make your way, do it slowly but do it yourself (those panic buttons linked to satellites will be discussed in an article for another day).

The views do make this trail worth exploring.

Overall, I was clearly not prepared for the sun or my poor conditioning in doing back-to-back hikes. I was also very surprised that the summits I so desperately wanted to get to were pretty inaccessible. Still, if you want a hike with great views and its a cool day, this one is worth it.

There is very little on the web about this hike so I just want to take this paragraph to talk about logistics. The best way to access the trailhead is by taking CA-2 to Melrose. Google,/GPS/G-something Whiting Woods Road (it intersects with Honolulu Ave.) and that will show you where to go. There is lots of parking at the trailhead, just use the shoulders of the road that can accommodate many cars or the little dirt turnoff that can fit about two cars.

Here is some interesting history about Whiting Woods:
Trail Map:


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